LXPs are Heading in the Wrong Direction

LXPs are Heading in the Wrong Direction

I am fine using handy wipes as a disinfectant for everything when I board an airplane (don’t forget to wipe down the seat belt).  I’m fairly confident that the folks who created handy wipes, never thought someone would use it as part of their air travel, for wiping down anything someone touched, prior to you sitting on said plane.

I present this tidbit of information because I see the same angle appear in various types of learning technology, including an LRS.

While once concerning, I’ve just learned to accept it and move on.  What I can’t accept though is how the LXP market (as a whole, and yes there are exceptions) are heading in the completely opposite direction, then what they started out as.

Why an LXP was developed

Ignore the learning experience component, because as previously noted, anything you do, could be a learning experience. Just yesterday, I learned that my dog Spirit enjoys stepping on my cell phone and hanging up on people I am talking to. 

What you should though focus on is the messaging that the LXPs pushed out constantly, “learner-centric”.  The spin was that this type of platform was all about the learner.  They could select content based on their interests, rather than being told what they must take or are required to take.

They could list their skills, and find content that would improve those skills, again, providing them with the flexibility to drive their own learning (often noted as a learning experience).

Many vendors noted that this approach was different than an LMS, because it focused on the learner and not compliance and required training (BTW, you can do the same thing in an LMS, i.e. learner-focused – after all, it is the client who decides what content should be in the system).

And for a time, the LXP market as a whole stayed true to that message.  Alas, though, something changed.

The message – learner-centric started to disappear.

L&D Focused, Results in L&D requirements

Every LXP targeted a specific department/division at companies, L&D.  Most vendors are unaware that someone in L&D, has a background in OD (Organizational Development), and that L&D is different than someone who has a training background.

L&D folks as a whole (again, plenty of exceptions), who have an LMS were/are using it for compliance and required (i.e. assigned training).

Now, if you are focusing on L&D, it would make perfect sense that those folks, who never offered personal and professional development content in their own LMS, would eventually want certain features that align more so to the way they have always run learning at their places of work. 

And so it began..

Assigned Content

The first function to rear its head was the “Assigned Option” which many LXP vendors started to add, and continue to add to their system.  Some have “assigned” as a component, which while it cannot be turned off, you do have the option of not using it.  Others make it optional but usually have it “on” as a default.

The argument LXP vendors make when it comes to adding “assigned” is that their clients are asking for it, so, therefore, they should add it.  The issue, of course, is that you as a vendor should be the one driving this, not someone who is/was using their LMS for a similar mechanism.

I’d note that I am constantly surprised by what percentage vendors give their clients in terms of functionality and direction of the system, via a roadmap.  I’ve seen numbers as high as 70%.  That is way too much. 

At that point, just hand over your system, and tell them to do whatever they want, and you start searching for Atlantis.

When I chat with LXP vendors, as a whole, the client percentage is higher than the LMS percentage for driving the system (again, there are exceptions).  

Thus, if you are allowing your L&D clients to direct your functionality, then what are you expecting to start appearing?  Assigned playlists. Assigned content that the learner must take an complete. 

Required content they must take, with deadlines (dates they have to complete it by).  Manager sign-off required to approve the content that a learner is interested in taking.  Manager review prior to any content a learner wants to take.  And so on..

I’m a Pepper, Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?

I’ve mentioned this before, but more and more LXPs are adding functionality that is ubiquitous to an LMS.   The same system they constantly tell prospects they are not like or that are traditional or stuck on compliance and required training. 

And yet, they themselves are adding more features like an LMS.  Why you ask?  The client driver angle. First, it is assigned. Then required.  Then they say, you know, it would be great if you had classroom management/instructor features – and whalla – here it is.

Next, it would be great if we could add compliance content to the system, and have compliance features too.  Surprise, here it is..

You know, it would be great if we could have the ability to lock down content, make people go linear in their learning, add a blended learning component (often content plus ILT/F2F), and, well, here it is..

Multiple system roles? Sure, here you go. Hierarchies? Here you go..

It, therefore, is not surprising that LXP vendors are sent RFPs and asked to compare themselves to an LMS vendor and vice-versa. 

Performance Management here I come…

When an LXP starts to push the performance or talent management approach or content tied to job roles, then it is no longer learner-driven, learner controlled or learner-oriented.  It is client-driven, client-controlled and client-oriented. 

The person who is running L&D and HR (a new audience that many LXPs are going after), have a set agenda for what they want that LXP to provide.  It isn’t really about learner-driven, although that is still available and is prominently used, it is back to the days of “we think we know what you should be taking” kind of thinking. 

Let’s not ignore that the learner can still choose content based on topics of interest or skills or whatever the system offers them, nor that there are L&D folks who just go this route and have no desire to push assigned or required content in the platform.

But there are many more, who on one hand see an LXP as an extension of an LMS (if they have one) or as a standalone to replace an LMS, and thus bring in the same philosophy of learning (if it is required and compliance), that they would seek with an LMS.

If you are in HR, the idea of having performance and talent management feature sets in an LXP seems reasonable. In L&D, incorporating leadership development, and other performance functionality equally seems reasonable.

Yet, neither of these items is why an LXP was created, nor the route goes for your learner. 

Part of the new messaging I hear from LXP vendors is this whole employee development approach for an LXP. 

If you, as a client want the employee development angle, then either buy an HCM, which has a learning mod (it is in the system, you just buy to turn it on), and buy another module, say performance management OR buy a performance/talent management system OR find an LMS that offers an extensive feature set for performance and talent management.

But, why oh why, would you want it for the LXP, which, you initially saw as ideal for personal and professional development?  How can any employee think that you are committed to their learning interests, when you are pushing performance down their throats, with a medicated candy of required learning?

This way to the Colosseum

A key component of any LXP is the machine learning piece. Some vendors pitch it as adaptive learning or A.I., it is neither. Really it is the algorithm, which was initially trained with whatever data the vendor had it trained upon, and then from there, it learns as it goes.

We are all aware that a cool component of any LXP is those playlists (sometimes referred to as channels) of content.  The usual fare includes, “Most Popular”, “Highest Rated”, “Learner selected” – as in they pick whatever content place it in a playlist which they can share with other learners,  “Topic of Interest” – tied to your topic or topics of interest, “Might be interested in” (using other semantics) but because you viewed or completed this or that, here are some other pieces of content you might like or enjoy (this playlist is a staple of LXPs – it might be listed as “Recommended,” based on your previous content selections”.

Some offer playlists based on your skills, whether it is content to improve upon or new skills to learn.

When it comes to assigned or required learning, what does the learner see? Why, it is the assigned content playlist. The required learning playlist or maybe, the job role playlist. Often each of these playlists the learner has to view and complete each piece. 

Machine Learning and the Assigned Factor

Think about that machine learning component.  What happens when you toss that into the “employer required content angle”?  More playlists with content tied around that initial required or assigned learning.  Content I might add, that the learner really has no interest in, because, most of it is boring, awful or just downright lame.  I’ve seen content that is basically SOPs or PDFs of regulations someone has to read.  Exciting! I’d rather stare at the wall.

I’ve also seen “recommended” playlists which ends up having more of the required/assigned content recommendations than the ones that learner actually would prefer that is based on their topics of interest or skils or a combo of the two.

Who doesn’t enjoy seeing a playlist of content based on their job role? Oh boy, more content on accounting principles, because I can’t get enough of that.

With the algorithm in full play, the playlists, the content turns from the learner, back to the manager or whoever is the driver of selections.  

It is one thing to have a playlist of proprietary content that the learner might have an interest it, or needs to pick a few and take them, but it is completely different mantra if they are forced to complete everything, even if they already know either parts or entire pieces.

If I already know how to pick and pack in the warehouse or drive a forklift, why would I want or have to complete a playlist that covers those exact same things I already know?  If I receive stellar marks on forklift safety, do you honestly, think that I would want to take a content playlist on forklift safety?

What if I wanted to learn how to use that Hoverboard you bought for warehouse workers?  Oh, sorry, we do not offer any content for that, but, uh, what about driving a forklift?

Full Steam Ahead with the Metrics

LXPs as a whole are not great when they come to metrics. Oh sure some have data visualization at some level, but many do not have an LRS, and if they do, many do not turn it on or use it to its full potential.   KPIs are a mixed bag, some offer it, others do not.

For whatever reason, “Views” seems popular, which makes zero sense, because what does that tell you in L&D or HR when it comes to identifying skill gaps or additional content of interest?  Well, if you are using your LXP as a test module for SEO, then yeah, quite a bit; but if you are the majority of folks in the learning space, it tells you nothing. 

When you start pushing the narrative of required/ sometimes listed under “mastery of learning”, then those metrics become part of the performance aspect, and not the learner aspect.

You need to ask yourself a very important question and answer it honestly to yourself. What is the goal, the end game of you using an LXP for your learners?  What is more important to your company?

A happy employee, which produces more; or an employee indifferent, who may or may have a high level of productivity, but has a higher likelihood of going to another company, because of the lack of personal and professional development.

Bottom Line

By changing the narrative of what an LXP was created for, and what it is slowly being turned into, the client is doing wrong for their learner.

Sure, they will see high completion rates, especially since it is assigned learning, and think to themselves, “This is really working, but you know, we could use XTY.”

And on the content side,

It just continues on, like someone playing the guitar that is out of tune.

It might sound right to them, but for everyone else?

It’s just plain wrong.

E-Learning 24/7

No blog next week, due to the holidays. However, the NexGen Grid appears on Dec. 30th.